Metro Detroit teen creates charity to help children with sickle cell disease get to doctor appointments
Growing up, 16-year-old Reem Siddiqui would often visit her mother at work at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.
It was during those visits that the teenager first observed a troubling trend.
“I would notice that some of her patients would miss their appointments because they couldn’t find transportation to come here. And these patients have sickle cell disease, which is a disease that requires constant medical attention,” said Siddiqui.
For some of the most vulnerable young patients, just getting to the hospital for care is a major challenge. It’s a persistent problem said Siddiqui’s mother Dr. Rana Khatib.
“Lack of transportation is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle,” said Khatib. “We see our patients very frequently for different reasons. Sickle cell is a disease which affects everything right from the brain down to your bones, there are complications related to it.”
“Some families might not have vehicles and others, they can’t always rely on others to give them rides because of the frequent appointments,” explained Siddiqui.
Depending on where families live, public transportation can be unreliable or unavailable.
“When I realized that missing these appointments could be detrimental to their health, I wanted to help out as best as I could,” said Siddiqui.
After researching and brainstorming, Siddiqui created a non-profit organization called MiCaringHeart -- that’s “my” with an M-I for Michigan. It’s a 501(c)(3) that collects money to provide cab vouchers for children with sickle cell disease. One hundred percent of the donations collected are given to the social worker at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, who then coordinates the rides for patients in need.
“Over the past year I’ve collected over $12,000, and I use the money that I collected to provide transportation so that patients wouldn’t miss their appointments,” said Siddiqui.
Two-year-old Elijah Williams is one of those patients. Getting Elijah to Children’s Hospital was a constant source of stress for his mother Jermitta Williams.
“If we weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be getting back here for his appointments,” said Williams.
They live in Clinton Township, and Williams doesn’t have a car or know how to drive.
She tried a transportation service, but it was unreliable.
“They would take us and bring us here but never come back and get us,” said Williams.
With two older children at home, she feared getting stuck.
“The thought of me being somewhere, and me getting dropped off with him and not having a way back home, that kind of was scary to me as a mother,” said Williams. “I thank God that God put it on people’s heart like that to be able to help other people.”
Making those appointments is critical for Elijah said Dr. Khatib.
“We need to monitor his counts every four to six weeks,” said Khatib. “We cannot just give him twelve prescriptions and say go on for a year. This medication helps him stay healthy and prevent complications related to sickle cell. Some kids come for blood transfusions to prevent a stroke.”
Because of COVID-19, Siddiqui had been unable to meet any of the patients benefiting from MiCaringHeart until now.
Meeting Elijah was a moment worth waiting for.
“He’s a really sweet kid. And it was really just heartwarming to see him, and I can see that my funds are going someplace good and they’re helping someone. And I was so happy to meet him,” said Siddiqui.
For Siddiqui’s mother, it was a double dose of emotion.
“As a mom, I’m very proud of her. But as a physician, I’m so glad that someone looked, someone knew that there is a need and said, “I’m gonna do something about it,’” said Khatib.
“It just makes me want to keep doing it and collect just as much money as I can to continue helping kids like Elijah who need to come to these medical appointments,” said Siddiqui.